Iolani Palace to undergo 6-month reroofing

Apr. 1—Roof repairs are underway at Iolani Palace, where a blessing was held to mark the start of the project.

Roof repairs are underway at Iolani Palace, where a blessing was held to mark the start of the project.

The repairs are estimated to cost about $1.2 million, and will include replacing its entire 9, 000 square feet of slate roofing, treatment of cast iron elements, neutralizing rust damage, and repairs to the skylights and glass cupola.

"The repair and restoration of 'Iolani Palace's roof is a critical step in preserving an essential piece of Hawai 'i's history and cultural heritage, " Curt Cottrell, administrator for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of State Parks, said in a statement. "By protecting this historic State Monument, we ensure that the legacy of the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to inspire and educate future generations."

Repairs are expected to take about six months, while the palace will remain open to tours, said Paula Akana, president and CEO of The Friends of Iolani Palace.

When Akana joined The Friends of Iolani Palace staff about five years ago, she asked what areas of the palace needed repair. Staff then showed her to the attic, where plastic bins have been kept to catch rain that leaks through the roof during a downpour.

"When it rains, our curatorial staff and our security actually run around in these crawl spaces, moving buckets and plastic bins all around, " Akana said. "Fortunately, it's not in the area where actual cultural resources are stored."

While staff had begun to notice slight water damage prior to Akana's inquiry, Akana said that the problem worsened in 2018 after Hurricane Lane swept past the state. The event also caused water leakage onto the second-floor glass cupola.

Upon realizing the issue, Akana got to work searching for grants to cover the costs of repairs. In 2019, The Friends of Iolani Palace held a fundraiser for the cause that garnered about $100, 000, which will be used as contingency funds, and raised awareness on the issue.

In 2021 they were able to secure a $500, 000 Save America's Treasures grant, as well as $700, 000 from DLNR, which administers the state monument. The majority of the funds will cover the cost of the replacement slates shipped from Vermont, which are the closest match to those currently covering the palace roof, Akana said.

The last time the palace underwent extensive restoration and roof repairs was in the 1970s, according to a news release. And while the slate currently in place is not what was installed at the time of the Palace's construction, its status as a National Historic Landmark requires its replacement to be a close match in appearance, Akana said.

Once repairs are complete, Akana said that visitors should not notice any visible changes.

Having the support of grant programs like Save America's Treasures and DLNR in these efforts reaffirms its importance to Hawaii's people and the world, Akana added.

"It's such an important part of our history, " she said. "It's nice to see that we're at a point in time that the palace is getting what she really needs, to make sure she's there for generations to come."------Linsey Dower covers ethnic and cultural affairs and is a corps member of Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues and communities.